Portsmouth Welcomes Old And New Ships

A veteran warship will return to its home base of Portsmouth on 23rd May for the final time on the same day that the Royal Navy's new Antarctic patrol vessel sails into port.

HMS Gloucester, which holds a missile-firing record from the first Gulf War, will sail into Portsmouth Naval Base, ahead of its decommissioning next month.

Later, the ice-breaker MV Polarbjorn, which will be renamed HMS Protector, will also arrive in the same port ahead of being accepted into the navy fleet next month.

The 29-year-old Type 42 destroyer HMS Gloucester is being decommissioned next month as the navy's fleet of ageing Type 42s is being phased out to make way for the new hi-tech Type 45 destroyers.

HMS Gloucester, which has clocked up 787,928 miles during service around the world, will mark its final entry to the naval base in traditional fashion by flying a decommissioning pennant.

It is returning from a farewell visit to its namesake city and from a training exercise involving the US, French and Spanish navies off the south west coast of the UK.

HMS Gloucester arrives in Portsmouth

HMS Gloucester was built by Vosper Thornycroft in Southampton and was launched on November 2, 1982 by the Duchess of Gloucester.

At 463ft long the ship was the longest vessel built at the shipyard since the Second World War.

Nicknamed the Fighting G, Gloucester's most notable action came in January 1991 when it was escorting the American battleship USS Missouri close to the Kuwaiti coast during the Gulf War.

As the Missouri came under attack by an Iraqi seersucker missile, Gloucester fired a salvo of sea darts to knock it from the sky in what proved to be the first validated, successful missile versus missile strike of its kind.

The ship also helped evacuate British nationals during the Israel-Lebanon conflict of 2006.

And in 2010, the ship made a £4 million drug bust by intercepting the cocaine headed on board the yacht Tortuga for the Falkland Islands.

Meanwhile, the MV Polarbjorn, which will enter Portsmouth under the Norwegian flag, will be officially named HMS Protector on June 1 and will be commissioned into the Royal Navy fleet on June 23.

It will take on the navy's Antarctic mission in November and will replace HMS Endurance. The future of Endurance, which suffered major flooding off Chile in 2008, is still being considered by the Ministry of Defence.

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